By Carrol R. Sutton
When God sent Moses to Egypt to deliver the Israelites from bondage, he gave him power to perform miracles and signs. The purpose of these signs and miracles was to confirm to the Israelites and to Pharaoh that God had sent Moses on this mission (see Exod. 4:1-8,17,21,28-3 1). Moses spake God’s message to Pharaoh and confirmed it with signs which he did.
In the book we call the New Testament Scriptures we have God’s revealed and confirmed word to produce faith in our hearts and to instruct us in righteousness (see Rom. 10:17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). A study of how God, through (or by), the Holy Spirit revealed and confirmed his word should be of interest and concern to all of us.
Although the coming of the Messiah had been foretold by the prophets, when the Messiah (Jesus of Nazareth) came, even “his own received him not” (cf. Jn. 1:11). Jesus performed miracles to prove that he is indeed the Son of God. In Mark 2:1-12 Jesus forgave a man (who was sick of the palsy) of his sins when he saw the faith of those who brought the sick man to him. When some scribes (in their hearts) accused Jesus of blasphemy, he miraculously healed the palsied man that they might know that he (the Son of man) had power on earth to forgive sins. After Jesus turned water into wine in John 2 “his disciples believed on him” (v.11) . For other miracles which Jesus did, see Matthew 4:23-24; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 13:11-17; John 11:41-46, etc. We learn from John 20:30-31 that the signs which Jesus did that are recorded are written that people “might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing” they “might have life through his name.”
When Jesus (during his personal ministry on earth) sent the twelve disciples and later the seventy out to preach to the Israelites “the kingdom of God” and that “men should repent” (see Matt. 10:1-23; Mk. 6:7-13; Lk. 9:1-6; 10:1-20), he gave them power to perform miracles (such as healing the sick and casting out devils). The miracles which they performed could serve as “credentials” to prove that they indeed were messengers of God’s Word!
Apostles Were Promised Holy Spirit Baptism
In addressing his apostles (a short time before his death) Jesus said: “But the Comforter which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you,” and “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak not of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come” (Jn. 14:26; 16:13). Speaking to his apostles after his resurrection, Jesus said, “But ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. . . ” and “. . . Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:5-8). Here are some of the facts we gather from the statements made by Jesus.
(1) The apostles would be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
(2) The Holy Spirit would teach the apostles “all things.”
(3) The Holy Spirit would bring “all things” that Jesus had said unto them to the remembrance of the apostles.
(4) The Holy Spirit would “guide” the apostles “into all truth.”
(5) The Holy Spirit would “show” the apostles “things to come.”
(6) The apostles would “receive power” after the Holy Spirit came upon them (also cf. Lk. 24:48-49).
(7) The apostles would be “witnesses” of Jesus.
We learn from Mark 16:15-18 that the apostles were to go into all the world and preach the gospel and that certain “signs” would follow believers.
The Apostles Received Holy Spirit Baptism
In keeping with the promise that was made to the apostles in Acts 1:8 (“Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence”), we learn from Acts 2:4 that “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” This occurred on Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. A close study of Acts 1 and 2 will reveal that only the apostles received Holy Spirit baptism on Pentecost. Although we have no record as to when Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit as the apostles were on Pentecost, the evidence points to the face that he was so filled (see 2 Cor. 11:5; 12:12; Gal. 1:1,11-12). We learn from Acts 10 and 11 that Cornelius (and “his kinsmen and near friends”) also received Holy Spirit baptism. This was evidence that God had also to the Gentiles “granted repentance unto life.”
Laying On of the Apostles’ Hands
After the apostles laid their hands on the seven men in Acts 6 it is specifically stated in verse 8 that “Stephen, (one of the seven -CRS) full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.” We learn from Acts 8:5-13 that Philip (another one of the seven) preached Christ and did “miracles and signs” in Samaria. The people believed the preaching and were baptized. The apostles at Jerusalem sent Peter and John to Samaria and they (Peter and John) laid their hands on the Samaritans and “they received the Holy Ghost.” Acts 8:18-19 says, “And when Simon saw that through the laying on the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money saying, Give me also this power that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.” Obviously, the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit in a miraculous way. In Acts 19:6 Paul (an apostle) “laid his hands upon them” (12 men at Ephesus) and “they spake with tongues and prophesied.”
Those on whom the apostles laid hands could perform signs and wonders. Some could speak “with tongues and prophesy” (Acts 19:6). Stephen could speak the truth “with wisdom” and could do “great wonders and signs” (Acts 6:1-10). Philip could preach Christ and do “miracles and signs” (Acts 8:5-13). Not all could do the same things (cf. 1 Cor. 12:28-31).
Although those on whom the apostles laid their hands and those to whom a miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit was given could speak in tongues and prophesy, speak the truth with wisdom and could do great wonders, signs and miracles, there is no evidence that any of them could impart a miraculous gift to others.
Spiritual Gifts of 1 Corinthians 12
There are nine spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians. They are: (1) The word of wisdom, (2) The word of knowledge, (3) Faith, (4) The gifts of healing, (5) The working of miracles, (6) Prophecy, (7) Discerning of spirits, (8) Kinds of tongues, and (9) The interpretation of tongues.
All who received miraculous gifts of the Spirit did not receive the same gifts. For example, all were not “workers of miracles.” Neither did all “speak with tongues, ” nor “interpret” (cf. 1 Cor. 12:28-31).
The apostles (and those who received spiritual gifts) received by revelation of the Holy Spirit the truth and they confirmed the truth of the message they tauhht by doing wonders, miracles and signs.
In Galatians 1:11-12 and Ephesians 3:2-6 the apostle Paul stated that the gospel that he preached was revealed unto him by Jesus Christ. He stated that God’s message was “revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” Paul declared that he had written the message revealed to him that others might read and understand what he knew. Here are some of the wonders, miracles and signs performed in confirmation of the revelation received by inspired men. (1) The apostles and some others spake in tongues (i.e., languages) they had not learned (cf. Mk. 16:17-20; Acts 2:4; 1 Cor. 12:6-3 1; 13; 14). (2) The sick and afflicted were healed (cf. Acts 3:1-16; 5:12-16; 8:5-7; 9:32-35; 14:8-11). (3) Elymas, an enemy of righteousness, was stricken blind (cf. Acts 13:6-12). (4) Unclean spirits were cast out (cf. Acts 5:16; 8:7). (5) The dead were raised (cf. Acts 9:36-42; 20:7-12). (6) Wonders, miracles and signs . (No doubt some of the above are included in these [cf. Acts 2:43; 5:12; 6:8; 14:3; 15:12,15-21; 2 Cor. 12:12]).
Men could not have known the things of God unless the Spirit of God had revealed them to men. The Spirit revealed the things of God to men in the first century and they preached the gospel (cf. 1 Cor. 2:9-13; 1 Pet. 1:12). The wonders, miracles and signs that were done confirmed the truth of the message. Mark 16:20 says, “And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.” We learn from Hebrews 2:3-4 that the “great salvation” first began to be spoken by the Lord “and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will.”
The Duration of Miraculous Gifts
In 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 we have the nine spiritual gifts listed. In 1 Corinthians 14 we have regulations given to govern the use of spiritual gifts as long as they were in operation. In 1 Corinthians 13 we have the duration of spiritual gifts stated. In 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 Paul declared: “Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease: whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” Please consider the following facts:
(1) Spiritual “gifts” (prophecy, tongues and knowledge are specifically mentioned but may stand for all) were to be done away (i.e., “fall”, “cease” and “vanish away).
(2) Obviously, some inspired men knew only a part of all truth for it was not all revealed through one man or all at one time. Some of the truth was given (i.e., revealed) through some men and the rest was given through others until finally all the truth (i.e., the perfect and complete revelation) would come from God to men.
(3) The words “when” and “then” are particles of time and point out a certain time for spiritual gifts to “be done away.” Paul said it was “when” that which is perfect or complete (in contrast with the parts or fragments that they then had) is come that the miracles would cease. Some translations say “partial” or “incomplete” or “imperfect” instead of “in part” and “complete” instead of “perfect” in verse 10.
(4) Logically, “that which is perfect” (i.e. , “the complete, “) is in the same realm or is of the same nature as “that which is in part.” Since “that which is in part” refers to the transmission of divine truth by revelation, the expression “that which is perfect” must also refer to the revelation of divine truth, but not in part but in whole. Therefore, “that which is perfect” refers to God’s complete revelation of truth, “all truth,” the entire New Testament.
The thing which is “in part” is of the same nature as the whole. The truth being revealed was “in part” as a result of the spiritual gifts which were given for revelation, inspiration and confirmation. The truth being revealed in part was being contrasted with the truth in all of its parts. The partial ‘ the incomplete, the fragmentary, the imperfect was being contrasted with the complete, the whole, the perfect!
When all the parts were finally revealed, “that which is perfect” – the whole, the complete truth was in existence (i.e., was made known to man)! This was accomplished by the time inspired men had written the last word of the New Testament. Note: The word “perfect” is used in the New Testament to refer to God’s revelation and surely it could be so used here in 1 Corinthians 13:10 to describe it (see Jas. 1:25; Rom. 12:2).
(5) When “that which is perfect” came, then that which was “in part” no longer existed! The partial or incomplete became the whole, the complete, the perfect! Neither would the spiritual gifts which revealed and confirmed the truth continue to exist. Their purpose had been fulfilled. In fact, at that time, they ceased as the apostle said they would!
No Holy Spirit Baptism and Spiritual Gifts Today
Since the purposes of Holy Spirit baptism and spiritual gifts have been fulfilled, the need for such no longer exists. Although there had been other baptisms, when Paul penned Ephesians 4:5 he said there is “one baptism.” By this time Holy Spirit baptism was no longer being received by anyone although water baptism continued to be in effect and would continue as long as men are lost and thus need to be saved (see Mk. 16:15-16; Matt. 28:18-20).
Today, we have a complete revelation that was confirmed by miracles and signs that were done in the first century (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Jas. 1:25; 2:12; Gal. 3:15). There is no need for nor is there any evidence that anyone today is being baptized with the Holy Spirit or receiving any spiritual gifts. Those things ceased by the time the last apostle and those upon whom the apostles laid their hands died.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 8, pp. 230-232
April 18, 1991